[Screen It]

(2008) (Jason Segel, Kristen Bell) (R)

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Comedy: After his actress girlfriend dumps him, a sensitive man goes to Hawaii to regroup, only to run into his ex and her new boyfriend.
Peter Bretter (JASON SEGEL) is a composer for the TV cop show, "Crime Scene" and has been dating its star, Sarah Marshall (KRISTEN BELL), for the past six years, although he's always resided in the background of their very public relationship. Even so, he's shocked when she suddenly dumps him, and he goes into a funk that even a series of casual sexual encounters can't undo. Accordingly, his married brother, Brian (BILL HADER), suggests that he should take a trip far away to get away from it all. Initially reluctant, Peter does just that, heading to Oahu for some rest and relaxation.

That's short-lived, however, when he runs into Sarah and her new boyfriend, flamboyant British rocker Aldous Snow (RUSSELL BRAND) who are staying at the same hotel that Peter is trying to check into. Sensing his pain, hotel clerk Rachel Jansen (MILA KUNIS) sets him up, gratis, in their best suite. Soon she and other hotel employees, such as waiter Matthew (JONAH HILL) -- who's a huge fan of Aldous -- and surf instructor Chuck (PAUL RUDD) are giving him advice or just supporting him through his tough times, which are exacerbated when he sees newlyweds Darald (JACK McBRAYER) and Wyoma (MARISA THAYER).

From that point on, and as he must deal with repeated run-ins with Sarah and Aldous, Peter tries to get over their breakup, all while finding himself falling for Rachel.

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
With all of the talk about the looming recession in the U.S. economy, a great deal of focus is put on job growth and how many people have had their positions terminated. There's no denying it's a vicious circle as a weakening economy leads to laid-off workers who don't have any money to spend, thus dragging the economy down even further.

Yet, there's little if any talk about the effect all of that has on personal relationships and whether financial adversity brings people together or drives them apart. And then there's the matter of how all of that affects the consumer's relationship with their chosen form of entertainment.

After all, if a given artist has recently disappointed someone and then seems to be on a trend of doing so, how long does that person stay in that "relationship," especially when it's costing them money? Take, for instance, the public's love affair with filmmaker and producer Judd Apatow. The flirting started with the little seen but much heralded TV show "Freaks and Geeks," but then blossomed into full romance with "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "Knocked Up" and "Superbad."

There were early signs of pending trouble, however, as the charm that made such raucous and raunchy comedy started to evaporate, eventually leading to duds and/or box office failures such as "Walk Hard" and "Drillbit Taylor." It would seem that the love affair between Apatow and his adoring fans and critics had soured and perhaps even burned out from seeing too much of each other in such a short amount of time.

Thanks goodness for second chances as the Apatow movie-making machine has rebounded and then some with "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," a return to the formula and good vibes that made "Virgin" so appealing and the best of the mini-mogul's offerings. It does so by deftly mixing the adult raunchiness with heaping doses of charm, wit, and a protagonist who's such a lovable loser that you can't help but feel for him and the comedic shenanigans that ensue.

Of all coincidences, the film -- directed by Nicholas Stoller from a script by its star, Jason Segel -- is about a sensitive wallflower (that being Segel in a star-making role) who gets dumped by his far more famous, TV actress girlfriend (Kristen Bell) in favor of a laidback but flamboyant British rocker (an absolutely fabulous Russell Brand who steals every scene in which he appears).

The three all accidentally end up at the same Hawaiian resort -- much to Peter's perpetual suffering -- where he eventually ends up falling for the pretty hotel clerk (Mila Kunis) and gets help, advice, and a shoulder to cry on (sort of) from other hotel staffers (played by, among others, Jonah Hill and the always reliable and funny Paul Rudd).

On its surface, the plot certainly doesn't sound like anything terribly remarkable, novel and/or memorable. It's the spot-on performances (particularly from Segel who makes you care and Brand who pretty much generates more laughs than most everyone else combined), funny little details (verbal and visual from a wide variety of sources, including the faux "CSI" type show within the movie), and, yes, that oozing charm and accessibility that makes this comedy stand above most others.

Whether it's the general look at how relationships end and begin anew or specific comedic elements (including but certainly not limited to the protagonist's desire to mount a serious, Broadway-caliber play about Dracula using puppets, and a willingness to employ male full frontal nudity for hilarious effect), the film offers an abundance of laughs.

As was the case with "40-Year-Old Virgin," it's certainly not for the kids, but like that film, it masterfully mixes raunch and charming humor into a highly entertaining and enjoyable product. While the jury might still be out regarding exactly how we feel about Apatow, this is clearly a big step back in the right direction of fanning the cinematic flames. "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" rates as a 7 out of 10.

Reviewed March 13, 2008 / Posted April 18, 2008

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